Wanderings of an artist in the trenches.

Writing

What’s Left Behind (Blog Archive)


Since Apple has effectively killed Dot Mac my old ArtBlog is no more. However, there were many posts on the old blog that I think some of you may still enjoy. So I thought I would re-post a few of the old posts here in the new blog, appropriately labeling them Blog Archives in the title.

WHAT’S LEFT BEHIND
Originally posted:
Sunday, March 4, 2007


When I was studying at Pratt Institute back in the early 1980’s I had an anatomy class taught by a wonderful teacher by the name of Sal Montano. I also had Sal for drawing. These courses were six hours long and he really worked our asses off. You would crawl out of that class, totally wiped out, having truly done some serious work. Sal reminded me, visually, of the character Degas that Dustin Hoffman played in the movie Papillon. He was a great guy and very open-minded when it came to looking at various artist’s with whom he was not familiar. I wish I knew more about Sal and couldn’t find much about him on the web, but there was a mention of him by Ephraim Rubenstein who also studied under Sal in a much more intensive way than I ever had the pleasure of. Here’s his response:

Hi George,
    Good to hear from you. Yes, Sal was a fantastic teacher, and I learned a tremendous amount from him. He was, indeed, a very gentle, unassuming man, but a powerhouse of knowledge. What was so beautiful was that his anatomy was functional- he wanted you to know much more than origins and insertions, but actually what the muscles did. That was the key, I think. We did a lot of joint workshops with a physiologist named Al Somomine (sp?) from Rutgers in ‘the anatomy of movement’- that was great as well. We tried to analyze walking or even twisting- it was marvelous.
    Sal was also very concerned that you were able to express what you knew in your drawings. It was all very well and good, he thought, to know your anatomy, but did it translate into better, more informed, more beautiful drawings? He always talked about ‘graphic language’- he would analyze something like a Schiele drawing and show how all of his distortions were so informed.
    Sal used to keep his skeleton in the truck of his car, and I remember walking with him late at night through the streets around Pratt and being stopped, skeleton slung over Sal’s shoulder, by the cops. What a riot.
Ephraim

Sal was also the guy who, if I remember correctly, did the dissections for Columbia University. One of the great opportunities for me was to go with Sal to Columbia and work with the cadavers. It was a singular experience for me, as the study of anatomy in this way was something I’d read about and knew that the great artists had done, on pain of death had they been found out.

My one trip to the Columbia University lab (1982) made such an impression on me then, and has continued to exert an influence on me since. It was a humbling experience, to say the least. One cannot work among the cadavers and not be changed in some fundamental way.

There was quite a bit of trepidation among a lot of people to go to this. We were told to bring a sack lunch with us for later, and many were fearful that they might not be able to take what they were going to see and would toss their cookies or whatnot. We were all pretty nervous.

On arriving at the theater where this was to take place, Sal gave a lecture. He spoke about the fragility and power of life. The wonders of the human figure, the body, and that we should all remember that the individuals that we were going to study from that day were human beings: Fathers, sons, mothers, daughters and that now, more than ever, they deserved our respect. They had donated their bodies so that others could study the inner workings of the human machine. What a powerful enervating speech that was. He made you feel as though you really were part of the larger world and history of art.

What we were noticing more than anything was the smell of formaldehyde which permeated everything. We were all trepidatious about seeing a real dead body, something that you only read about in the newspapers, heard on the television news or saw in movies. But it was exciting, too. How many people really do get to see this beyond doctors? It was a rare opportunity, to be sure.

After the speech a gurney was rolled into the theater by a couple of lab technicians. They were dressed in white lab coats, as was Sal. On the gurney was a body covered by a white sheet. The sheet was pulled back and there was our first cadaver. It was the body of a large black man who had been dissected down to reveal his musculature. What we had seen in rare medical texts was there before our eyes. Revealed were the complex systems that we’d been trying to understand as seen rippling under flesh.

The lab technicians hoisted the body and basically put it into a pose. A model stepped into the theater, disrobed and assumed the same pose. Here was a side-by-side comparison of the muscles! Incredible! It was fascinating to see.

At this point we are just watching, taking it all in. Seeing those muscles move without skin. Unbelievable. After a while of this we were invited to come up and actually touch the muscles, to wedge a finger beneath a tendon and tug it gently to see a finger on the hand move. A miraculous machine. Hard to believe it works at all, so intricate.

Now we were enjoined to spend our time drawing, inspecting, exploring. At some point a buddy and I left the theater and wandered into another room. It was dark inside and in the feeble light we could see rows of gurneys with sheet-draped figures. It was quiet and antiseptic inside, still.

We flipped on the lights and moved from table to table pulling back the sheets. Under each was a different tale. Under one was only a torso, split up the center, the ribs splayed out. Under another was an old woman whose cranium was open, the skull cap lying like a bowl behind the head holding the scalp. The face had been cut down the middle along the forehead, down the nose and on through the lips and chin. One half of the flesh had been pulled aside to reveal the muscles beneath. Pretty jarring stuff, to be sure. But, just as with a live model, there is a certain detachment that presents itself, this is business. I had to remind myself, sometimes, that these were once live human beings.

We pulled out our pads of paper, our brushes, pencils and watercolors and began working. We went from gurney to gurney, each presenting a new visual problem to solve, a scene to capture. We were the only two in there and it was actually strangely peaceful. Every once in a while the reality of what we were doing would steal into us and chills would run up and down our spines, but it was just too fascinating.

At one point Sal came into the room and admonished us for having left the theater. We weren’t supposed to be in this room at all. But he came over and looked at what we were doing and saw that we were being incredibly respectful. He nodded, then left us alone to continue our work. That was pretty damn cool!

I don’t remember much else about that day, really. I know that I could not eat my sack lunch, which consisted of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a coke and maybe some potato chips. I also couldn’t touch roast beef for a week. But I do remember feeling as if I had seem something so spectacular, so singular that I would never really be the same. I had been let into the back room of reality that few get to see. Privileged to witness what we’re really made of.

I’ll try and dig up my original drawings from that trip from so long ago and scan them for inclusion in this entry.

And that leads us to my visit to USF’s Department of Anatomy. Joe Thiel is one of the instructors at Ringling’s Illustration department and he has been talking about their program with USF and asking if I’d like to go. Of course I would. I hoped, too, that the number of students that were interested would be fairly large as well.

We decided that I’d drive Joe and myself to the campus, the students getting there on their own steam. The weather was getting a bit colder (for Florida) and the sky was threatening rain. After arriving we waited a bit outside on Paul Glass, whom Joe has worked with on this over the years. The students began showing up and we stood in the cold for just a short bit.



Paul Glass finally showed up and handed us all release forms to sign. These stated that we understood the rules of the laboratory and all that.

The Ringling Program has been ongoing for 14 years under the auspices of the USF Department of Anatomy.

The program was originally pushed by Alan Cober, one of the great illustrators of our time. The idea was welcomed and encouraged by ? , a Swedish Doctor of ? who sat on the Nobel Prize Jury Committee, who thought it an excellent idea. One that expanded the knowledge of the human form to those outside of the medical field.



Paul Glass is a photographer, specializing in microscopic and Electron photography. He’s also the manager of the laboratory. He led us into the main entrance of the lab where there were large sinks and piles of hanging and discarded lab coats. He gave a lecture very similar in content to Sal Montano’s all those years ago, to respect these individuals and the importance of the donations of their bodies for others to learn more about the human anatomy.

He informed us that we were arriving late in the term and that the dissections had progressed further than usual. He said, too, that since these were students working on these dissections some of the things we would see were not necessarily well done, some things torn rather than expertly cut with the scalpel, etc., etc. The bodies were also in an advanced state of dissection. This would progress until there was nothing left to dissect, basically. All parts of an individual, he told us, were kept together in large containers. When the dissection was complete, the remains were taken to a crematorium and cremated. The ashes, if not claimed by a family, were taken to the Gulf of Mexico and scattered in the ocean. They go to great lengths to make sure they were well taken care of he said.

He then opened the door and let us in. We began at 9 AM and would continue until 3:30 or 4 PM. Inside was a large room with many high gurneys. On each was a cadaver. Some were lying on their backs, others turned partially over on their sides, others on their stomachs. Some had no heads, others no legs. There were several with heads cut down the middle and pulled apart, revealing a cross-section of the face, skull, brain, etc. Alarming at first. But then the clinical detachment kicks in and the desire to know more comes to the fore. An awesome sight.

On the walls of the laboratory were various framed pieces of artwork from previous years of the program. It was great to see that the medical school valued the work in that way, that it was a constant reminder on the walls of the lab. Very nice.



The first body I saw is the one that I found myself wanting to stay with. There was a grace to this figure that was so interesting to me. I was not able to do as many drawings as I’d have wished, but do think I captures some essence of that grace fulness. The body lay on its back with the head turned to the left. The left arm was thrown aside, the hand in a gesture very peaceful, as in repose. A flap of skin was pulled up and  back from the skull, and a smaller flap pulled down just below the right eye. Again, that odd sense of calm grace kept me with this figure. I did several drawings of this figure then moved on to a couple of other bodies.



There were also several large tub-like things there called “tanks”, one of which Paul opened for the students. Inside there were several heads and a torso. I didn’t wander over there until later, but the students gravitated to this spot and stayed there practically the whole time.



One of the more salient moments I had was when I was sort of roving a bit from the body I began with, just scouting the rest of the bodies in the room. There’s an odd thing that happens here in that the figures all sort of become genderless, and, in a way, ageless, though the age is more along the aged side rather than youthful. I was passing by one figure and noticed fingernail polish on the nails of the visible hand. That little bit of reality, of vanity and mortality hit hard. It brings it back home to you that these are people who have lived their lives, laughed, cried, everything. Very powerful.

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The Black.Light Project



Where to begin? I’m on the return trip now from Erlangen, Germany where I spent over a week working with an incredibly sensitive and powerful group of artists. I’ve admired the work of two of these artists from afar, and the other artists I’ve only just now been introduced to, yet already have a fine appreciation for. We have been brought together to lend our talents to give voice to those in West Africa who cannot speak for themselves. The project is entitled Black.Light and deals with the Charles Taylor wars and their aftermath. The project blends photography by Wolf Böwig, text by Pedro Rosa Mendes, and art by the various artists.

Above: The original book by Pedro and Wolf.

Here is a link to the project for more information:
http://www.blacklightproject.org/project.php


The Beginning
I was contacted a year or so ago to participate in this project and immediately agreed due most certainly to the story itself which is so moving, and to be involved with such extraordinary talents: Wolf Böwig, Pedro Rosa Mendes, Danijel Žeželj, Benjamin Flaó, David Von Bassewitz, Thierry VanHasselt, Nic Klein, Stefano Ricci and Lorenzo Mattotti.


Wolf Böwig is an extremely gifted photojournalist whose “beat” includes many of the distant places of trouble most of us only read about in articles: Sierra Leone, Monrovia, Liberia, Afghanistan, Iraq. In his pictures one is confronted with violence and its aftermath. His pictures are emotionally charged, sympathetic and ultimately empathetic with his subjects. I spoke with Wolf over the phone and he impressed me as a soft spoken yet strong individual. He talked about the project and what the team was trying to accomplish. I was/am flabbergasted that such an accomplished photojournalist as Wolf even knew my work, much less would want to have it associated with his project. Wolf assured me that we would have everything we needed in the way of research, including his own photographic files to dig through.


Wolf, unfortunately, was unable to attend the workshop due to health issues. We were all very saddened that he couldn’t make it, but hoped he would get better soon. Occasionally we get encouraging emails from Wolf about the project and the progress of the workshop. A quote from one of those letters is powerful:


“So there will be no more deaths in the darkness.”

A couple of months before this trip I received in the mail a large box containing a dummy book for this project. It was beautiful! A large black clamshell case protecting the oversized horizontal format coffee-table book Black.Light.

What has ultimately happened is the Black.Light Workshop here in Erlangen, where we could all come together to discuss and work on our various chapters and the book as a whole. It’s been extremely rewarding.

Sketchbook drawing I did on the plane going to Erlangen.

(I found little time to write while at the Workshop, so the account below comes from after, while traveling home)
On the plane back to home:
So I’m headed home now after participating in the Black.Light Workshop, literally a makeshift studio space in the conference room of our hotel. The floor was covered with painters tarps and walls have been added to allow for pinning artwork up. We hhad everything in the way of art supplies at our disposal (and a trip to the art store in Nürnberg to complete our arsenal). There were tables scattered about and we could set up where we liked and make the space our own.

The first artist I met was Benjamin Flaó.

Benjamin Flaó

I was not familiar with his work before meeting him, but it’s wonderful. He came over and introduced himself to me and we spoke at length about drawing and traveling. I’m jealous of his books which are basically published journals of his travels. They are packed with beautiful observational drawings and watercolors.


He has a keen, sensitive eye for the telling detail, and his drawings are lively and inventive. We hit it off immediately, our love for art and travel winning the day. Benjamin speaks eloquently about the things he sees and feels and he is generous with his praise and time.

As he was going to have to leave the workshop early, Benjamin arrived a few days before anyone else so that he could begin his prodigious output. The man is a machine!

 

The amount of work he produced was inspiring. Ideas flew from his brushes, pens, watercolors and crayons. He worked in a sort of feverish frenzy, paint flying, oil crayons scribbling about. Pictures were fleshed out then obliterated to make something stronger than before. It was a joy to watch him work (as it was a joy to watch everyone work!).

Next I met Nic Klein whose work sort of covers the gamut of comics styles. He can do more above ground work like DC and Marvel, and then rove into more independent and edgy territory. Nic speaks fluent English and sounds like a native. He’s a big guy with a full beard and reminds me of a German soldier from an Eduard Thöny drawing of the First World War.

Nic Klein

Nic (along with his beautiful wife Katrin) became my sort of copilot during the trip. We had a great time together. Nic, like me, was sort of floundering about at first struggling to figure out how best to approach the art for this book. I think we both have found our way thanks to the workshop and the opportunities it afforded us to see and work with all the other talent.

Benjamin spoke with Nic a few times and seemed to give him excellent direction but Nic was still struggling, it seemed to me. I threw in my two cents and handed him one of my putty knives to draw with, something that’s totally not about control. He took it and did a very nice portrait of one of the police force leaders or rebels.

It had a nice chunky solid quality to it. It pushed him to explore more simplification and then to work with various textures in the same piece. I don’t know if it really solved any of his problems but he did some nice work with it and maybe it opened up the possibility that we didn’t have to rely on what we know — something I found my own way with during the workshop. 

The beauty of the workshop was that if you were struggling with anything at all you could wander just a few steps and see what someone else was working on and be instantly inspired to try something new.

I know that when I first arrived at the workshop I had little idea what was actually expected of me there. My thoughts were that I would spend a pile of time doing thumbnail layouts of the chapter, breaking the story down visually, which is my usual method before doing any final art. I would then shoot reference and then begin painting the final work. Instead, I felt I was better served by just developing imagery that might be used in the final work, but more importantly could act as a springboard for what would come later. I figured that just by working through imagery I might stumble onto something that I could hang the whole chapter on, either stylistically, or sequentially. I found that I got a little of both, really. I’ll talk more about that later.

Next, I met Thierry Van Hasselt whose work I knew from the dummy book I had been sent.

His dark suggestive paintings feel like rich underpaintings or monotypes and illuminate an eerily silent world that in some ways, emotionally, reminds me of Bosch’s strange scenes. It is work entirely appropriate for this dark story. Thierry is a tall quiet guy and was always painting away on his compositions. He had a ready smile, but was a man of few words.


Thierry Van Hasselt and Henning Ahlers

Next was Danijel Žeželj from Croatia. I’ve admired Danijel’s work for a number of years now. 

Danijel and his wife Jessica

His stark, powerfully graphic black and white world is visually immediate and imminently readable. He’s a solid storyteller and whenever I read his work I leave satisfied not only because of the visual storytelling, but because I feel artistically nourished as well.

Danijel working on one of his large panels.

I was looking forward to meeting Danijel and was glad to find that he is a super nice guy and very humble about his work. He had already completed his chapter for the book which is about Morie, the Prince of the Dead. An incredible tale of one child’s terrible experience during the war. 

The rebels had come to the town of Bendu Malen, killing it’s 1,100 inhabitants — save one small boy, Morie. They forced Morie to find his mutilated family amidst the slaughter to confirm that they were all dead, then they proclaimed him the Prince of Bendu Malen. 

What Danijel was doing here, since he had already completed his chapter was a mystery to me. But he had three large wooden panels which he painted white with housepaint and rollers. One of these he screwed into the wall, then set up his camera in a fixed spot, surrounded by a taped boundary to keep people from accidentally bumping the camera. After getting his white balance and lighting correct, he began pouring out black and white house paint into painter’s trays. Using two rollers, one for black and one for white, he began work on the first panel.


Danijel working on one of his large panels.

It was interesting to watch as he slowly worked the panel. Graphic black began to crisscross and undulate over the panel. After a few strokes he would take a couple of frames of the piece with the camera. This continued over the next several days, alternating with black and white paint to flesh out the images. A powerful image would appear, only to be obliterated to allow yet another stark image to be revealed, all the while the camera recording, frame by frame, its slow progress.

Father John Garrick watches Danijel work his magic.

Sometimes he would use sheets of paper to help create hard edges and angles, at other times he would employ a brush and work traditionally. At the end of the workshop he had worked over the three panels, each having something like four or five beautiful pieces beneath the last image.

He then downloaded his photos and put those into Final Cut Pro and began the process of editing the work for timing and transitions. In addition to the artwork he brought in various sound clips from his wife Jessica’s saxophone playing, and various other instruments. In the end he had produced a subtly unsettling animated portrayal of his idea of Morie’s waking up in a room in our hotel in Erlangen, and what it might be like for him. A very powerful presentation titled “Parallel Morning”.

Danijel working on his MacBook Pro editing in Final Cut Pro.


When I left America to go to the workshop I had no idea that Stefano Ricci had agreed to participate.

I’ve been an admirer of Stefano’s work for many years after first seeing it in Brussels. I love his exploratory nature with materials. There’s definitely an intimate dialogue with material going on in everything he does. Inspiring work.

He turned out to be a great guy, quiet and fully focused on his work, but genuinely warm and friendly. Another bonus! I enjoyed watching him work on his chapter and the mess he created all about him while he worked. Made me feel okay with my own chaotic mess about me as well.

Throughout the workshop we were unbelievably fortunate to have there with us Father John Emmanuel Garrick, the Catholic priest who witnessed many of the atrocities in Sierra Leone.

Father John Garrick


Indeed, it was his parish where much of the terror occurred. To have him narrate his memories to us personally was a rare privilege.


Usually my research is through dusty old tomes and crazy internet searches. I’m reaching through the misty residue of, say, the First World War, digging through old firsthand accounts from long dead individuals and faded photographs. But this is something that happened fairly recently, and Father Garrick lived through it! So he would talk to us about what he saw, what he experienced, and we, too, could ask him personal questions about how he handled seeing such horrible things. How does one live with the first hand knowledge of those horrors?


My portrait of Father John Garrick for the book.

He was very articulate and was able to distill his thoughts into very substantial and meaningful impressions that would give us vivid mental images of what went on there in those dark turbulent times. One could see the sadness in his eyes, though his mouth smiled.


He told us of how the rebels would enter a village and cut the hands, arms and legs off of the villagers. “They would ask them, ‘do you want long sleeves or short sleeves!'” he said, motioning to his own arms, making cutting gestures at his biceps or at his wrists. “They gave them a choice which was no choice at all.

He spoke about the rebels slowly killing a man in front of his family, then cooking him and eating him with a bowl of rice. “They used the most powerful evil to make sure the people complied. ‘This could happen to you!’ They were saying.”

I tried to capture John effectively with my cameras, but he proved elusive. He was always smiling, and incredibly generous with his time and his thoughts. But occasionally I would see him just… leave. He withdrew into himself and one could see that he had gone to another place. A darker place, for sure. And my heart ached for what he must have lurking in those dark corners. These moments did not last long, but they were there all the same. And who would be able to hold back those thoughts continuously from the forefront of one’s mind?


John had a reunion with his brother whom he had not seen in thirty years. His brother had gone to study in London and had stayed there all through the horrors. John was excited to see him.

John and his brother Roland


He also had a birthday while we were all together so an impromptu birthday party was had by all. Neat.

John blowing out his birthday candles.

Another interesting thing was John wanting to go to Nuremberg to see where the Nazi’s had their war trials. So John, his brother Roland, Christoph and I travelled there and took in the various sights and sites. We visited where the Nazi’s held their rallies. Interesting and scary.

Where the Nazi’s held their rallys. Shot just above where Hitler would stand to deliver his speeches.


Next we visited the courtroom where the Nazi’s were trried after the war. This was especially moving for John as he wanted to see it to reassure himself that justice could be served.


Courtroom 600.





John listening to the recorded tour while sitting in courtroom 600.

Back at the Workshop: After working a good day we would all retire to a nice restaurant for food and spirits. The talk was lively, the food very good, the beer even better.


Sketchbooks were brought forth and everyone, including Father Garrick, got in on the action of filling them up. We played a game really, though I can’t remember who put it into play, (Nic, Benjamin or Stefano?) but the first drawing was supposed to be the intro to a story and every image after that was to carry the tale further. It was a lot of fun and the threads went to some pretty interesting places.

Yay! I’m finally in a shot! Me and Father John having a beer.


Henning Ahlers




Henning Ahlers, Yours Truly and Nic Klein

Danijel and Father Garrick


Time was relaxed and we just let the night unwind through laughter, beer and liquor. Very pleasant. And we talked about the project as well, about the work we were doing and what we wanted out of it all and if we felt we were making headway. Nic got me to try various local dishes and that was fun. His fiancé, Katrin, was fun to be around too and she seemed to blend right in with all the artists. This was her first introduction to a festival, I think. She was shy about being photographed, so of course it became a game to capture her with my camera.


Occasionally several of us would venture to yet another bar and more drinking and sketching, or we’d make our way back to the workshop studio rooms and do a bit more work. It was all relaxed, really. There was a schedule, but it was flexible and fluid. We’d meet in the mornings at the surprisingly varied breakfast of Scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, meatballs, baked tomatoes with melted mozzarella, croissants and other pastry items, fresh fruit, cold cuts, crepes, etc. Coffee, tea, orange juice. I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning! And outside our studio the hotel kept a continuous service of hot coffee, tea, sandwiches, pastries, juices, etc. Pretty wild. We did not break for lunch, just kept working, only wandering outside the room to grab a sandwich or another coffee, carrying it back in to continue work. Nic and I would venture out into Erlangen on occasion to snag a bottle of Coke, then back to the studio.

About a day or so into the process David Von Bassewitz arrived and was yet another welcome artistic addition. I didn’t know David’s work, but, as with everyone I met there, loved what I saw and enjoyed the opportunity to talk with him about his processes, etc. David rode with Henning and I to Nürnberg to get art supplies and it was great to get to know him better during the trip.


David was working on his roughs which I thought were his finishes, so beautiful were they. He had large sheets of paper on the floor and was working in pencil and pen with some crayon.

Later, though, these images were refined and executed on even larger sheets of paper that were tacked to the walls. His story was like one linear visual narrative piece, rather than normal, panel by panel sequential work. There were no panels but just a long connected drawing that told more than one thought. Very cool stuff. His work is much more abstract than my own, but when you get closer to it you can see the strength of his drawings coming through. Very gestural work too, which reminded me in many ways of the work of Feliks Topolski in his “Topolski’s Chronicle” broadsheets from the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. I’ll try to include some images of Topolski’s work here. Beautiful stuff. I have no doubt that David would love Topolski’s works.



I had a great time talking with David about drawing and the need to cut loose from the moorings of the classical schools of drawing. I mentioned my own struggles with making things “correct” and the need to get away from all that, feeling it was an empty victory for me. He agreed and said he had many of the same struggles. But working with his son had helped him out. Quite often they pin up large sheets of paper and just draw and paint. He said it was watching his son work that allowed him to open up and be more free with his line work. 

He mentioned having had a lesson with Baru, a comic artist with whom I’m familiar and whose work I enjoy. Baru quickly drew a figure running. It was not a classical figure at all, but something more crude and to the point. “This is a figure running! It says what it needs to say. To refine it adds nothing to it, ultimately.” So it was about giving one’s self permission to be simple.

So much of what we were all striving for seemed to be simplicity, without a loss of power or emotional content. This falls perfectly in line with what one of my favorite teachers has pushed constantly in his teachings. Barron Storey took from his teacher Robert Weaver the notion of “high resolution content with low resolution execution. Content trumps technique.”

Benjamin Flaó leaving the Workshop.


Benjamin Flaó left early and the rest of us continued through the week. Seeing so many directions was inspiring and, too, sort of unnerving. It definitely made me think about my own approach to the chapter that I was to illuminate. I initially was doing drawings as I have always done them, brush and ink, or pen and ink, very straight forward. But the more I began to take stock of the raw material of the story, and the rest of the work being done around me I wanted to break away from doing what I knew, what I was comfortable with and try to stretch a bit.


Small acrylic paint sketch of the previous pen and ink.


I got some putty knives and using large sheets of paper from a carton that Henning Ahlers had brought with him I began to experiment. I had to do a lot more thinking about the marks I was making, but the thinking was with my gut and could not rely on muscle memory at all. I could not go on auto pilot or go quickly. And I was excited! It got my blood going! I love not knowing what’s going to happen, and this was pushing that even further. It was a joy, really.

I had begun a couple of paintings, and again I felt I was doing what I know. I’m happy with the pieces, but the beginnings had so much more abstract mark making in them that I wished I had the foresight to just stop sometimes.

I love the beginning of this painting. I should have stopped right here.



Where I left the painting.


Detail of the previous painting.


Another small acrylic study.


And that, too, led to these putty knife drawings. They were a beginning for me. I revelled in their crudity, so like cave paintings. There was an immediacy to them that I loved. So I focused on those for the rest of the workshop.

 


 

Henning Ahlers (Project Coordinator) and Christoph Ermisch (Layout, Design, Website), wandered throughout the workshop from artist to artist and had sitdowns with them to discuss the directions of their respective chapters. Also, they conducted interviews with each of us throughout the workshop.

Christoph Ermisch, the designer of the project.


When the Erlangen Comics Festival began, we cleaned up the studio, laid all the art on the tables (though some, like David’s and Danijel’s remained on the walls), covered them with large sheets of glass and the room became an art exhibition. During this time as well we had television and newspaper reporters coming through doing interviews with us all about the project, it’s scope and our own directions and feelings about it. 


Father John Garrick being interviewed for television. My drawings and paintings in the foreground.


At the festival we gave a press talk with a large screen which presented Wolf’s photography. There were television news teams there and newspaper reporters, along with festival guests and attendees. Father Garrick was a bit nervous in the beginning, but delivered an impassioned description of the events which impelled Wolf and Pedro to begin a project of this scope.





It was sad to leave everyone after having such a focused amount of time working together. New friends found in a foreign country struggling to make sense of another country’s genocide. Each of us carrying back home with us our own memories and thoughts of our time together along with the horrors we were trying to visually record.


I’m excited to see this book completed, and am proud to be a part of it.


Below is a link to my own work for the book, which I’m just finishing. This is all the work done since returning. I’m sure they’ll include the work done at the workshop as well in the final volume.

Please feel free to leave comments there. I’d love to hear what you think about the work.




http://georgepratt.smugmug.com/NewWork/BlackLight/24913012_4FSgDQ#!i=2061845769&k=VWQG5K7




The Team


WOLF BÖWIG
photographer


was born in Hannover, Germany in 1964. He studied mathematics and philosophy at the TFH and the FU both at Berlin. In 1988, he became a war photographer. His reports are published in (alphabetical order) du, Expresso, Facts, Guardian, Internationale, Le Monde, Le Monde Diplomatic, Lettre International, Liberation, LFI, NY Times, NZZ, mare, Publica, Stern, taz, The Independent, and Visao. He reported from conflicts in (alphabetical order) Afghanistan, Balkans, Bangladesh, Burma, Cuba, DRC, Ethiopia, France, Guinea Bissao, India, Ivory Coast, Kenia, Liberia, Namibia, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Tadjikistan, Timor Leste, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Zambia.

PEDRO ROSA MENDES
writer


was born in Cernache do Bonjadrin, Portugal in 1968. After his jurisprudence studies, he worked as a journalist, mainly for the daily Público, the Portuguese partner in the Worldmedia syndicate of newspapers, and a reference newspaper in Lisbon. He reported from conflicts in (in alphabetic order) Afghanistan, Angola, Australia, Balkans, Bangladesh, Burma, Cape Verde, Guinea Bissao, Indonesia, Liberia, Mocambique, Rwanda, Sâo Tomé e Principe, Sierra Leone, Timor Leste, Zaire, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

HENNING AHLERS
project coordinator


was born in Hannover, Germany in 1970. He studied graphic design with an emphasis on editorial illustration and graphic storytelling. He has worked as a storyboard artist and conceptual illustrator for television commercials, short films, and music videos. During the last decade he designed and art directed numerous animated feature films and served as a consultant on several live-action film projects.

KIRSTEN RIAN
coordination, USA & Africa


was born in Portland, Oregon, USA in 1967, and is the author of  the recently published, Kalashnikov in the Sun (Pika Press), an anthology of Sierra Leonean poetry. 

She also co-authored the anthology, Walking Bridges Using Poetry as a Compass (Urban Adventure Press). Her writing has appeared in international literary journals and anthologies. An independent photo-graphy curator and book editor for 20 years, she has coordinated more than 375 exhibitions, and 75 books and catalogues.



PHILIPP SCHAPER
coordinator Europe


was born in Hannover, Germany in 1980. He studied history and political science at Leibniz University of Hannover, with ann emphasis on current peace and conflict studies of Western and Central Africa and Southeast Europe. In 2004 he began working for different local daily newspapers, and since 2006 for Neue Presse.



CHRISTOPH ERMISCH
layout, design, website


was born in Varel, Germany in 1965. He studied Industrial Design at Fachhochschule Hannover and Brunel University of London. He is a member of the design group METAmoderne. Since 1998 he has worked as a communication designer at ermisch I Büro für Gestaltung based in Hannover. He is working – from conception to realisation – on all facets of the Blacklight Project, the exhibitions, corporate identity, multimedia, and internet presence.



DANIJEL ŽEŽELJ
illustrator


was born in Zagreb, Croatia in 1966. Žeželj studied classical painting, sculpting and printmaking at the Academy of Fine Arts in Zagreb. His comics and illustrations have been published by DC Comics/Vertigo, Marvel Comics, The New York Times Book Review, Harper’s Magazine, San Francisco Guardian, Editori del Grifo, Edizioni Charta and others. In 2001 in Zagreb, he founded the publishing house and graphic workshop Pettikat. Four years later he became the first comic book artist ever to have a solo exhibition at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts. His work has been published and exhibited in Croatia, Slovenia, UK, Switzerland, France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Sweden, South Africa, Argentina, Brazil and the USA.



THIERRY VAN HASSELT
illustrator


born in Brussels, Belgium in 1969. Van Hasselt teaches the subject Comics at the Ecole Superieure des Arts St-Luc in Brussels, where he also studied. His main focus is graphic-specific literature. Together with Vincent Fortemps he founded the Belgian comic book publisher Freon, which merged in 2002 with the French publishing house Amok to Fremok. For his first album, Gloria Lopez in Angouleme, he was awarded the Prix Etranger Alph’Art. In 2009 he was one of the co-authors of the book Game of Catch at Vielsam which Fremok published in cooperation with handicapped artists of the ECC Hessen. Van Hasselt cooperates for his work extensively with the choreographer Karinne Pontier or the writer Mylene Lauzon.



NIC KLEIN
illustrator


was born in 1978 in Desseldorf, Germany and works as a freelance illustrator for the comics and entertainment industries. His work has been widely published in the United States, and Klein’s clients include names such as Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Wizards of the Coast, Radical Comics, Panini Comics, Bantam Dell Publishing Group, Microsoft Games, Ehapa Comics, and ImagineFX. His Viking mini-series, published by Image Comics in 2009 became an immediaate independent hit and is now available as  an oversized hardcover edition. Currently Nic is working on Doc Savage for DC Comics.



DAVID VON BASSEWITZ
illustrator


was born in 1975 in Giessen, Germany. He studied Cinematography at Erlangen University and Illustration at the UUniversity of Applied Sciences in Wuerzburg, Germany. His drawings are published in Der Spiegel, Die Zeit, stern, Le Nouvel Observateur, The New Scientist, BBC History Magazine, Sciences etAvenir, Jung von Matt, Grabarz&Partner, SidLee Montreal, Birkhaeuser Verlag, HoerBild Verlag, Lerzer’s Archive: The world’s 200 best illustrators, Die Automate-Hoerbild Verlag, Licht für Städte-Birkhaeuser Verlag, ADC Sushi-Magazin, Freistil, 3 x 3 Magazine, and Taschen: Illustration Now. He was awarded the ADC Auszeichnungen, Golden Award of Montreux, Silver Lion of Cannes, and Le Grand Prix de la Bande Dessinée Européenne.



GEORGE PRATT
illustrator


was born in Beaumont, Texas, USA in 1960.  He studied at Pratt Institute in New York, and since has worked as an illustrator for various art and comic books, including Batman, Sandman, Magaines and exhibitions. His first graphic novel, Enemy Ace: War Idyl,  which he wrote and illustrated for DC Comics, was nominated for both the Eisner and Harvey Award for Best Graphic Novel, as well as Best Foreign Graphic Novel in Angouleme, France, where it won the prestigious France Info Award for Best Foreign Graphic Novel. In England it wond the SpeakEasy Award for Best Foreign Graphic Novel. It was published in 9 foreign languages, saw four editions in the United States, and was on the Required Reading List at Westpoint Military Academy. His mini-series Wolverine: Netsuke, which he wrote and illustrated for Marvel Comics was awarded the Eisner  Award for Best Painter at Comic-Con International in 2003. His work is in many private collections and has been exhibited internationally. Most recently his work was exhibited at the Hanami After Dark exhibition in Washington, DC for the Cherry Blossom Festival. 


With Steven Budlong and James McGillion, George created “See You In Hell, Blind Boy”, a documentary film about hhis travels through the Mississippi Delta researching his blues novel of the same name. The film won Best Feature Documentary at the New York International Independent Film Festival, and was accepted and shown at the Santa Barbara, Nashville and Hot Springs Film Festivals. The film subsequently aired for over a year on the Bravo Channel on television.
He is listed in the Walt Reed’s definitive coffee table book “The Illustrator in America 1860-2000”. he was also awarded a Gold Medal in the Spectrum Awards of 2002 and has had his work exhibited many times at the Society of Illustrators in New York.

BENJAMIN FLAÓ
illustrator


was born in Nantes, France in 1975. When he was 14 years old, Flaó left state school to  enroll at the École d’arts Graphiques de Saint-Luc in Tournei, near the Belgian capital of Brussels. Two years later he joined the École de Graphisme Publici-taire in his home town of Nantes. In 1994 he went to Lyon in order to specialize in comics, cartoons and illustrations at the famous École Emile Cohl. Under the psuedonym Hekel & Jekel Flaó led jointly by YanNick Chambon varied illustrational works such as murals, caricatures and graffitis. In 2003 Flaó won whith his travel diary about the Mam-muthus Expedition of Siberia the Travel-Book-Price of the Biennial Lonely Planet in Clermont-Ferrand, central France. Since 1998, Flaó undertook several motorcycle travels through Africa, especially Burkina Faso and Eritrea, which he regularly documented through drawing.

STEFANO RICCI
illustrator


was born in 1966 in Bologna. Since 1985 Stefano Ricci has collaborated on several magazines such as Frigidaire, Avvenimenti, Esquire, Panorama and Nova Express. In 1989 he published Dottori and in 1994 Ostaggi. In 1995 Doon Giovanni and Il Magnifico Libro del Signor Tutto appeared. One of his short stories, Tufo, was translated into German and French magazines and selected for the Prix International de la Bande Dessinée in Brussels. In 2000, for the magazine Glamour, “Anita” was created. Stefano Ricci is the editor of magazine “Mano”, together with Giovanna Anceschi. He lives and works in Hamburg.




Late night musings


It’s 3 AM and outside it’s raining. A heavy, steady thrum on the rooftop. I was walking Scout just a bit ago and we’d just about rounded the last corner of the neighborhood when I could hear the oncoming rain squall. It was pretty eerie and approaching fast. I tugged on Scout to get a move on and practically half-dragged her home. We got drenched anyway. Now it hammers the house and I can hear sheets of water splattering the tiles by the pool. Scout gets antsy during thunderstorms.

Earlier, at the beginning of our walk, I saw a light in the sky. It was arcing quickly, too fast to be a jet or plane, from the clear edge of the sky to the deep orange clouds blanketing the western edge. And it was a faint light, not a bright pulsing light, such as one might see on the edges of airplane wings.

And then it was gone.

I stood watching the sky, mouth half-open, because I wasn’t really sure I’d seen it, even though I’ve had lots of these lights in the sky experiences since moving to Florida and during my nightly perambulations. So my thoughts were on Close Encounters and how the UFO’s used clouds as their cloaking device. Running all that through my head and connecting it to my idea that maybe other weather events are cloaking devices used by extraterrestrials. That’s when I heard the roar of the rain. And why it was creepy. At that point the cloud cover was complete. You couldn’t see the sky anymore, the stars were all gone.

This mood has been running all day today for me. It started this morning when the new Guerrilla Pochade box I’d ordered from Amazon arrived. Had fun putting it all together and filling it up. Playing with tubes of paint is a joy that’s hard to describe. So many wonderful choices, so much possibility encompassed in such a small tube. I figured the pochade box was a good way to go compared to the heavy French Easel I’ve used for years and years. It seems to grow heavier and heavier. I’ve been debating on whether to order one of these for a long time. Finally just bit the bullet and did it. I figured if it were easier to just hit the road and paint en Plein Air I’d probably do much more of it. The box is a neat little unit. Very compact, all things considered. I’m happy I did it. Now I have to see how it performs in the wild.

Anyway, part of the order from Amazon was also copy of Dark Horse’s reprint of the complete “Hunter” series from Eerie magazine. Man, did I ever love this story when I was younger.

For anyone who doesn’t know, Warren Magazines published Creepy, Eerie, Vampirella, and Blazing Combat magazines. These were wonderful comics because they were magazine format, printed in black and white with full-color painted covers usually by the likes of Frank Frazetta, Sanjulian, etc. They contained the sequential work of some of the best creators in the business, both writers and artists. Because they were magazine format they were not bound by the comics code rating authority, so they could push the traditional boundaries and tell stories unseen in conventional comics of the day – to paraphrase Mike Richardson’s intro. As a kid growing up in the mid-Sixties these were a breath of fresh air. I was introduced to these books by my cousin Jake, who made sure that I saw all the stuff I wasn’t supposed to see, like underground comics with Robert Crumb, Gilbert Shelton, the Checkered Demon, etc. You felt that you weren’t supposed to be reading these books. They had a sense of the far side of adult to them. They felt like questionable material, which made them all the more appealing. I loved those magazines and collected them all.

I saw the ad for it on Amazon, you know how they pepper you with things like other things you’ve ordered, and HAD to order it. I didn’t realize until I opened it up and started looking through the pages what a nostalgic slap it would be to my heart. I started tearing up while looking through it. Those pages, so graphic, so much a part of a certain time in my adolescence, put me right back to that time. I was immediately transported to my home and to the comforting closeness of family. I remember sitting in my room at my drawing board copying those pages and panels by Paul Neary. And the strongest memory was of my father. How much I miss him. There I was spending inordinate amounts of time struggling to learn how to draw, scratching away at recreating those panels line for line, and my father was moving through that house, humming and whistling, his light tread on the carpets as he wandered to and fro.

How much we take for granted when we’re young. Safe in the knowledge that all is right with the world while we’re in that comforting cocoon. Yet how swift time flies. How quickly time fades and tumbles into the past. How I would give anything to relive them, to smell those smells, to smile those smiles, to feel those hugs and reassuring proud gazes from my father again. It’s a powerful visceral want in me. Yet I wouldn’t change anything for fear of losing my children. They bind me here to the present. But, oh, those memories rise unbidden and steal away yet more time from me, the king waster of time. I feel like time is speeding up and it’s a thankless, hasty bitch. Georgie grows tall before me. I’m confused at how he got so tall so quickly. When? How? And Mary, though her voice still sounds like a little pixie on the phone, grows quickly as well. It’s unnerving, because it’s all so fast. I want it to slow down, dammit!

But there I was this morning, stunned into silence and immobility by a comic book, thoughts of my wonderful, loving father battering me. It wasn’t, and never is, a terribly unpleasant feeling. It’s actually one I sort of wallow in. There’s something bittersweet about it. It hurts so good. It reminds me of a letter that NC Wyeth wrote to his mother when he was older, married and with his children. He was looking through a photo album and writing about how he constantly goes to that album, even though it invariably leaves him somewhat depressed, morose, because he can immediately be transported to a time and a place. Captured within each photograph are all the things seen and unseen that day. It makes one wonder that if we could step into the photographs, we could travel in that time, in that place and “be there!”

And looking at those Hunter stories today I WAS there! If I looked up at the right moment, I’d be home, and everyone would be living their lives in that time in that place. God, I miss who I was then. Who we all were then.

I’m not so different now, I guess. Older, wiser. Had a lot kicked out of me in New York. But I lived a lot and learned a lot there too. I was lucky to grow up when I did. The world, though it was on the brink, was still a simpler place for a kid like me, living in the wonderful wash of comics and cartoons, novels and movies. Wallowing in the belly of a family that actually functioned on love and understanding most of the time. Never realizing totally just how lucky I was. My course has been steady. Art, art, art. And I truly believe that, obsessed as I was, as I can be about some things, I do pay attention and notice the world about me, the people about me. How they enhance my life with riches beyond compare.

I wish I could hug my father again. I wish I lived closer to my mother and my sister and brother. I wish, I wish. I wish that time could be reeled in and replayed and savored yet again.

Wow. I’ve really taken a tour here of the depressed kind. Just had a close friend pass away and it seems unreal. More time lost. More grist for that mill.

Need to lighten up. Those Hunter pages caught me off guard. Totally didn’t think I’d get that kind of hit from them.

But I think about that kind of stuff pretty often. Like NC Wyeth, I see this stuff and in each page, each panel there is a whole world of things going on. I see those pages and think immediately of everything going on at the same time. While Paul Neary is working on Hunter, Jeff Jones was painting some of the Studio stuff, as was Mike Kaluta, Bernie Wrightson and Barry Windsor-Smith. Frank Frazetta was doing some of the best work of his life! Archie Goodwin was writing away on the myriad stories he wrote, as was John D. MacDonald. Cat Stevens was cranking away at his wonderful music as was the band Jethro Tull and everyone else! The list is almost endless, too great to list it all. Johnny Hart, Hal Foster, Hank Ketcham, Paul Ryan, Stan Lynde, Jack Kirby, Russ Heath, Louis Armstrong, etc. Insert your favorite artists, writers, musicians, actors, etc.

God, what a time! Everyone was doing their thing! And it was an exceptionally rare time for so much creativity. And in those things, each, is this world all happening at the same time. How lucky we are for having them all expressing their need to create at that time. How lucky I was to be alive to experience it all. How lucky I was to have a buddy, Lum Edwards, to experience it with, who shared the sense of wonder and awe in those beautiful works. Who shared the need to emulate it all, too. We pushed each other onward to greater skill and polish.

So, anyway, the musings of a momentary sadness.

Have a great day!

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Musings on Art


What is the true purpose of art? Or is the question itself at cross-purposes with the artist as opposed to the art? Can art serve multiple purposes, even when originating from one hand? Can there be, or should there be, only one answer to this question?

I think the ultimate purpose of art is multi-faceted. It serves to represent a tangible reflection for those who would otherwise stumble blindly through their lives without stopping to smell the roses. It comforts many by reminding them that there is beauty, hope and rebirth in this world, as well as pain, ugliness and death. It offers differing viewpoints of the world, but doesn’t demand that one see only one perspective. The viewer or beholder can take or leave the message as they see fit.

The more I read about the processes by which our minds engage the world through our various senses, the more I understand that everything is a form of illusion or hallucination. When our minds are working well, we share a very similar hallucination, one in which we are usually in agreement on. But it is a slender thread that connects us all. Artists are willing to see beyond the thread, past it and into it and around it and try to make sense of the things we see, hear, etc.

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Wonderful Artists’ Quotes


Here are some amazing quotes by even more amazing artists. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do:

My candle burns at both ends; / It will not last the night; / But, ah, my foes, and, oh, my friends – / It gives a lovely light. (Edna St. Vincent Millay)

Always lines, never forms! But where do they find these lines in Nature! For my part I see only forms that are lit up and forms that are not. There is only light and shadow. (Francisco de Goya)

You have the sky overhead giving one light; then the reflected light from whatever reflects; then the direct light of the sun; so that, in the blending and suffusing of these several luminations, there is no such thing as a line to be seen anywhere. (Winslow Homer)

Paint your picture by means of the lights. Lights define texture and color – shadows define form. (Howard Pyle)

The picture must radiate light, the bodies have their own light which they consume to live: they burn, they are not lit from outside. (Egon Schiele)

Available light is any damn light that is available! (W. Eugene Smith)

There was never a night that could defeat sunrise. (unknown)

A gray day provides the best light. (Leonardo da Vinci)

The vivacity and brightness of colors in a landscape will never bear any comparison with a landscape in nature when it is illumined by the sun, unless the painting is placed in such a position that it will receive the same light from the sun as does the landscape. (Leonardo da Vinci)

Light first, value second, color third. (Linda Walker)

As light fades and the shadows deepen, all petty and exacting details vanish, everything trivial disappears, and I see things as they are in great strong masses: the buttons are lost, but the sitter remains; the sitter is lost, but the shadow remains; the shadow is lost, but the picture remains. And that, night cannot efface from the painter’s imagination. (James Abbot McNeill Whistler)

I have had three masters, Nature, Velasquez, and Rembrandt. (Francisco de Goya)

It’s all in how you arrange the thing… the careful balance of the design is the motion. (Andrew Wyeth)

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape – the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show. (Andrew Wyeth)

My aim is not to exhibit craft, but rather to submerge it, and make it rightfully the handmaiden of beauty, power and emotional content. (Andrew Wyeth)

-The Helga Pictures
My struggle is to preserve that abstract flash – like something you caught out of the corner of your eye, but in the picture you can look at it directly. (Andrew Wyeth)

If you clean it up, get analytical, all the subtle joy and emotion you felt in the first place goes flying out the window. (Andrew Wyeth)

If you paint a man leaning over, your own back must ache. (N. C. Wyeth)

Paint should not be applied thick. It should be like a breath on the surface of a pane of glass. (James Abbot McNeill Whistler)

Throw your heart into the picture and then jump in after it. (Howard Pyle)

I criticise these compositions by analysis but an illustration cannot be made that way – it must be made by inspiration. (Howard Pyle)

Project your mind into your subject until you actually live in it. (Howard Pyle)

Your subjects have had a history – try to reveal it in your picture. (Howard Pyle)

Paint ideas, paint thought. (Howard Pyle)

Look at nature, work independently, and solve your own problems. (Winslow Homer)

I prefer every time a picture composed and painted outdoors. The thing is done without your knowing it. (Winslow Homer)

Hardening of the categories causes art disease. (W. Eugene Smith)

Passion is in all great searches and is necessary to all creative endeavors. (W. Eugene Smith)

If I can get them to think, get them to feel, get them to see, then I’ve done about all that I can as a teacher. (W. Eugene Smith)

How do you paint yellow wheat against a yellow sky? You paint it jet black. (Ben Shahn)

Paint what you are, paint what you believe, paint what you feel. (Ben Shahn)

Of course you will say that I ought to be practical and ought to try and paint the way they want me to paint. Well, I will tell you a secret. I have tried and I have tried very hard, but I can’t do it. I just can’t do it! And that is why I am just a little crazy. (Rembrandt)

Painting is the grandchild of nature. It is related to God. (Rembrandt)

Without atmosphere a painting is nothing. (Rembrandt)

You can’t do sketches enough. Sketch everything and keep your curiosity fresh. (John Singer Sargent)

To work is to pray. (John Singer Sargent)

-on painting a watercolour…
Make the best of an emergency. (John Singer Sargent)

I was hard at work beneath the cliff… In short, absorbed as I was, I didn’t see a huge wave coming; it threw me against the cliff and I was tossed about… My immediate thought was that I was done for… the palette which I had kept a grip on had been knocked over my face and my beard was covered in blue, yellow etc…. the worst of it was that I lost my painting which was very soon broken up… everything was torn to shreds by the sea… (Claude Monet)

I’m not performing miracles, I’m using up and wasting a lot of paint… (Claude Monet)

I’m in a foul mood as I’m making stupid mistakes… This morning I lost beyond repair a painting with which I had been happy, having done about twenty sessions on it; it had to be thoroughly scraped away… what a rage I was in! (Claude Monet)

I would like to paint the way a bird sings. (Claude Monet)

I think only of my painting, and if I were to drop it, I think I’d go crazy. (Claude Monet)

Happy are the young people who believe that it is easy. (Claude Monet)

When you go out to paint try to forget what object you have before you – a tree, a house, a field or whatever. Merely think, here is a little square of blue, here an oblong of pink, here a streak of yellow, and paint it just as it looks to you, the exact colour and shape, until it emerges as your own naive impression of the scene before you. (Claude Monet)

What is it that’s taken hold of me, for me to carry on like this in relentless pursuit of something beyond my powers? (Claude Monet)

Paint what you really see, not what you think you ought to see; not the object isolated as in a test tube, but the object enveloped in sunlight and atmosphere, with the blue dome of Heaven reflected in the shadows. (Claude Monet)

-in the floating studio…
Today I drifted with Camille on the Seine at Argenteuil. The views materialized and dissolved and I was as contented as a cow in her stall. (Claude Monet)

Critic asks: “And what, sir, is the subject matter of that painting?” – “The subject matter, my dear good fellow, is the light.” (Claude Monet)

As for myself, I met with as much success as I could ever have wanted. In other words, I was enthusiastically run-down by every critic of the period. (Claude Monet)

-at Giverny, January 15, 1915…
I sometimes feel ashamed that I am devoting myself to artistic pursuits while so many of our people are suffering and dying for us. It’s true that fretting never did any good. (Claude Monet)

I began to understand my sensations, to know what I wanted, at around the age of forty – but only vaguely. At fifty, that is in 1880, I formulated the idea of unity, without being able to render it. At sixty, I am beginning to see the possibility of rendering it. (Camille Pissarro)

Paint the essential character of things. (Camille Pissarro)

Painting, art in general, enchants me. It is my life. What else matters? When you put all your soul into a work, all that is noble in you, you cannot fail to find a kindred soul who understands you, and you do not need a host of such spirits. Is not that all an artist should wish for? (Camille Pissarro)

It is only by drawing often, drawing everything, drawing incessantly, that one fine day you discover to your surprise that you have rendered something in its true character. (Camille Pissarro)

I sometimes have a horrible fear of turning up a canvas of mine. I’m always afraid of finding a monster in place of the precious jewels I thought I had put there! (Camille Pissarro)

Work at the same time on sky, water, branches, ground, keeping everything going on an equal basis… Don’t be afraid of putting on colour… Paint generously and unhesitatingly, for it is best not to lose the first impression. (Camille Pissarro)

Cover the canvas at the first go, then work at it until you see nothing more to add. (Camille Pissarro)

It is the brushwork of the right value and color which should produce the drawing. (Camille Pissarro)

God takes care of imbeciles, little children and artists. (Camille Pissarro)

Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing. (Camille Pissarro)

The motif must always be set down in a simple way, easily grasped and understood by the beholder. By the elimination of superfluous detail, the spectator should be led along the road that the artist indicates to him, and from the first be made to notice what the artist has felt. (Alfred Sisley)

Winter… that feeling of quiet and all nature is hushed to silence. (John H. Twachtman)

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Reading List


Haven’t posted a reading list in quite awhile and thought I’d remedy that situation right now.

I’m a voracious reader. I read every chance I get. It’s the greatest gift that my parents gave me. It’s the gift that just keeps on giving. I have boxes and boxes and boxes of books. I love the written word. I love the journeys that books take me on, how they remind me that I’m not alone, that others have been here long before me and they’ve left breadcrumbs of wisdom for me to savor. How could one ever be lost?

I don’t care how tired I am, how worn out, late at night, I have to read. The problem is that once I get into a book I find it hard to stop! I can be woken up by the words and the waking dream that writing evokes.

I usually have several books I’m reading at a given moment, switching from book to book as the spirit sees fit. Then there are piles waiting in the wings on my bedside table, or sitting in the queue on my iPad. I flit from fiction to autobiography to non-fiction to biography to history to pulp, etc. I love it all. And I’m enjoying transferring that love to my children, who both love books as well.

Right now I’m almost done with “The Tell-Tale Brain” by V. S. Ramachandran, which I’m thoroughly enjoying.

“A physician (like Oliver Sacks, a neurologist) as well as a researcher, Ramachandran uses his neurology patients’ predicaments to inspire inquiries into how we see and know, the origins of language, the mental basis of civilization, how we conceive of and assess art, and how the self is constructed. Always careful to point out when he is speculating rather than announcing research findings, he is also prompt to emphasize why his speculations, or theories, are not just of the armchair variety but can be put to the test because of what neuroscience has already discovered about the active structures of the human brain.” (Booklist )

There’s a lot of food for thought in this book, and I’ve learned so much about how we see, how the mind processes visual information. A very engaging read!

Another (actually two by the same author): “The Element” and “Out of Our Minds” by Ken Robinson. Ever since Sir Ken Robinson spoke at the Ringling Commencement a couple of years ago I’ve been an avid follower of his ideas on how the educational system is basically broken and his ideas on how to fix it. You can see and hear him speak online through the TED talks on You Tube easily enough. He’s a delightfully open, honest and earnest speaker that is able to deliver some serious information about education in a humorous way. His books, so far (I’ve not finished them yet) are great reads and almost capture his speaking voice. They delve much deeper into the causes of the breakdown of education, and what his ideas are for fixing it all. Worth a read.

“A breakthrough book about talent, passion, and achievement from one of the world’s leading thinkers on creativity and self-fulfillment.

“The Element is the point at which natural talent meets personal passion. When people arrive at the Element, they feel most themselves and most inspired and achieve at their highest levels. With a wry sense of humor, Ken Robinson looks at the conditions that enable us to find ourselves in the Element and those that stifle that possibility. Drawing on the stories of a wide range of people, including Paul McCartney, Matt Groening, Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington, and Bart Conner, he shows that age and occupation are no barrier and that this is the essential strategy for transform ing education, business, and communities in the twenty-first century.” Amazon

Next: “The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer” by Siddhartha Mukherjee.

Amazon Best Books of the Month, November 2010: “In 2010, about six hundred thousand Americans, and more than 7 million humans around the world, will die of cancer.” With this sobering statistic, physician and researcher Siddhartha Mukherjee begins his comprehensive and eloquent “biography” of one of the most virulent diseases of our time. An exhaustive account of cancer’s origins, The Emperor of All Maladies illustrates how modern treatments–multi-pronged chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery, as well as preventative care–came into existence thanks to a century’s worth of research, trials, and small, essential breakthroughs around the globe. While The Emperor of All Maladies is rich with the science and history behind the fight against cancer, it is also a meditation on illness, medical ethics, and the complex, intertwining lives of doctors and patients. Mukherjee’s profound compassion–for cancer patients, their families, as well as the oncologists who, all too often, can offer little hope–makes this book a very human history of an elusive and complicated disease.” –Lynette Mong

I’ve not gotten too deeply into this yet, but what I’ve read is incredibly interesting and hard to put down.

Next: “A Place of My Own: The Architecture of Daydreams” by Michael Pollan. I’m actually re-reading this now. I bought the book when it was originally released in 1997 and absolutely loved it. Michael Pollan decides to build his own small writing studio on his property in and his attention to detail and care in getting it right are a joy to read. It’s a wonderful book on really thinking about how a structure should fit the land and the person who will use it. This book makes one want to care more about one’s craft.

“An utterly terrific book . . . an inspired meditation on the complex relationship between space, the human body, and the human spirit.”
-Francine du Plessix Gray

“Michael Pollan’s unmatched ability to draw lines of connection between our everyday experiences- whether eating, gardening, or building-and the natural world has been the basis for the popular success of his many works of nonfiction, including the genre-defining bestsellers The Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food. With this updated edition of his earlier book A Place of My Own, readers can revisit the inspired, intelligent, and often hilarious story of Pollan’s realization of a room of his own-a small, wooden hut, his “shelter for daydreams”-built with his admittedly unhandy hands. Inspired by both Thoreau and Mr. Blandings, A Place of My Own not only works to convey the history and meaning of all human building, it also marks the connections between our bodies, our minds, and the natural world.” Amazon

Next: “The Lampshade: A Holocaust Detective Story from Buchenwald to New Orleans” by Mark Jacobson.

From Booklist
“The origins of this story go back to Buchenwald, the Nazi concentration camp, where Isle Koch, the sadistic wife of the commandant, developed a liking for things (gloves, lampshades) made out of human skin. Flash forward to the present: the author receives a strange artifact in the mail from a friend: a lampshade that appears to be made from human skin. This fascinating and frequently unsettling book chronicles Jacobson’s quest to find a proper home for the lampshade and, if possible, to find out exactly where it came from. The book also explores the history of torture by flaying (the gods of Greek mythology did it; so did Ed Gein, the American serial killer of the 1950s), and the impact of the Nuremburg trials. Journalist Jacobson avoids sensationalizing this inherently sensational story, taking a reportorial approach to the material. A chilling reminder that the aftereffects of World War II and the Holocaust continue to be felt, even in the most unlikely of ways.” –David Pitt

Next: “Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea” by Mark Kurlansky. I’ve read Kurlansky’s other books and have loved them all (“Salt”, “Cod”). This book is an incredibly engaging read about how religions have been hijacked and used for power, how nonviolence is different than pacifism, and why nonviolence is feared by those in positions of power.

“In this timely, highly original, and controversial narrative, New York Times bestselling author Mark Kurlansky discusses nonviolence as a distinct entity, a course of action, rather than a mere state of mind. Nonviolence can and should be a technique for overcoming social injustice and ending wars, he asserts, which is why it is the preferred method of those who speak truth to power.

“Nonviolence is a sweeping yet concise history that moves from ancient Hindu times to present-day conflicts raging in the Middle East and elsewhere. Kurlansky also brings into focus just why nonviolence is a “dangerous” idea, and asks such provocative questions as: Is there such a thing as a “just war”? Could nonviolence have worked against even the most evil regimes in history?

“Kurlansky draws from history twenty-five provocative lessons on the subject that we can use to effect change today. He shows how, time and again, violence is used to suppress nonviolence and its practitioners–Gandhi and Martin Luther King, for example; that the stated deterrence value of standing national armies and huge weapons arsenals is, at best, negligible; and, encouragingly, that much of the hard work necessary to begin a movement to end war is already complete. It simply needs to be embraced and accelerated.

“Engaging, scholarly, and brilliantly reasoned, Nonviolence is a work that compels readers to look at history in an entirely new way. This is not just a manifesto for our times but a trailblazing book whose time has come.” Amazon

Next: “Autobiography of Mark Twain” by Mark Twain. I’m a Twain fanatic and will pick up just about anything on him or by him. I love his voice, his honesty, his unpretentiousness and humor. He reminds me of my grandfather on my father’s side, who, incidentally, adored Twain as well. But the voice I hear when I read Twain is my grandfather’s and it’s a great place to be.

Next: “Family of Secrets: The Bush Dynasty, America’s Invisible Government, and the Hidden History of the Last Fifty Years” by Russ Baker.

This book was an eye-opener and has an incredible amount of food for thought. If you’re a Republican then this will probably make your head explode. But I did find it a fascinating read.

“In an era dominated by corporate journalism and an ideological right-wing media, Russ Baker’s work stands out for its fierce independence, fact-based reporting, and concern for what matters most to our democracy…A lot of us look to Russ to tell us what we didn’t know.” —Bill Moyers, author and host, Bill Moyers’ Journal (PBS)

“Russ Baker has the three most important attributes of any great investigative reporter: He is skeptical, he is fearless, and he is indefatigable. Whenever he examines anything—including the most allegedly well-covered topics—he breaks important new ground.” —David Margolick, author and contributing editor, Vanity Fair

“Shocking in its disclosures, elegantly crafted, and faultlessly measured in its judgments.”—Roger Morris, author of “Richard Milhous Nixon and Partners in Power”

“How did the deeply flawed George W. Bush ascend to the highest office in the nation, what forces abetted his rise, and — perhaps most important — have those forces really been vanquished by Obama’s election? Award-winning investigative journalist Russ Baker gives us the answers in ‘Family of Secrets’, a compelling and startling new take on the Bush dynasty and the shadowy elite that has quietly steered the American republic for the past half century and more. Baker shows how this network of figures in intelligence, the military, oil, and finance enabled — and in turn benefited handsomely from — the Bushes’ perch at the highest levels of government. As Baker reveals, this deeply entrenched elite remains in power regardless of who sits in the Oval Office.
‘Family of Secrets’ offers countless disclosures that challenge the conventional accounts of such central events as the JFK assassination and Watergate. It includes an inside account of George W.’s cynical religious conversion and the untold real background to the disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina. Baker’s narrative is gripping, sobering, and deeply sourced. It will change the way we understand not just the Bush years, but a half century of postwar history—and the present.” Amazon

Then there’s my just plain fun stuff to read pile:

My mother’s been nudging me to read author Vince Flynn’s series of books about his character Mitch Rapp, and I decided to take the plunge with the newest one “American Assassin”, which is really his sort of origin story. So far I’m enjoying it. Pulp stuff, but fun with lots of action.

I just finished reading one of the latest Charles Todd thrillers, “A Lonely Death.” This is a series about Inspector Ruttledge of Scotland Yard, just after the First World War. Ruttledge was a Captain in the British Army who was forced to execute a Scottish soldier under his command in the last days of the war. In returning to his previous post as an inspector he finds that he’s haunted by the man who now inhabits his mind. These books are well written, thoughtful and emotional mysteries. I’ve enjoyed them all.

I also just finished reading the new Elmore Leonard novel, “Djibouti”. As usual, fun stuff. His dialogue is always fantastic. He’s able to capture the true cadence of the way people speak. It’s like being a fly on the wall. I love the way he writes! Lean and mean. You can’t go wrong picking up anything he’s written.

Here’s a quick list off the top of my head of authors that I love, in no particular order:

John D. MacDonald
Derek Raymond
Rex Stout
Edgar Rice Burroughs
Roald Dahl
Ray Bradbury
Stephen King
Charles Beaumont
Jack Finney
James Thurber
James Lee Burke
Jim Thompson
Charles Willeford
Richard Matheson
John Scalzi
Arthur Conan Doyle
Lester Dent
Robert E. Howard
Sheridan LeFanu
Sir Richard Francis Burton
Frank Herbert
Lewis Shiner
Joe R. Lansdale
Boston Teran
Kurt Vonnegut
Michael Crichton
Jack London
Rudyard Kipling
Lawrence Block
Lynn MacDonald
Barbara Tuchman
Mary Stewart
Jayne Anne Phillips
Rick Bragg
Cornell Woolrich
T. R. Pearson
Donald Westlake
Richard Stark
James Dickey
Eric Hansen
Rory Nugent
Tim Cahill
Redmond O’Hanlon
David Sedaris
Jacques Cousteau
Eddy L. Harris
Ernest J. Gaines
Richard Wright
John Irving
Cormac McCarthy
Larry Niven
Jerry Pournelle
Isaac Asimov
Arthur C. Clarke
John Gardner
His “On Becoming a Novelist” is a must read!
Switch the words artist for novelist and it
fits perfectly.
Stieg Larsson
J. D. Salinger
Breece D’J Pancake

And on and on and on and…
I’ll add to this later. 🙂

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


Great Henry Miller Quote


From a tweet by Stu Maschwitz:

http://t.co/xJJbkLp

“Every day we slaughter our finest impulses. That is why we get a heartache when we read those lines written by the hand of a master and recognize them as our own, as the tender shoots which we stifled because we lacked the faith to believe in our own powers, our own criterion of truth and beauty. Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths. We all derive from the same source. there is no mystery about the origin of things. We are all part of creation, all kings, all poets, all musicians; we have only to open up, only to discover what is already there.”
— Henry Miller, Sexus

– Posted using BlogPress from my iPad